After one of the longest legislative sessions in the past decade, lawmakers approved a $11.8 billion budget on Memorial Day. The budget included a few increases for education, including $136 million for textbooks, transportation, etc. and $20 million for school safety; and, it ensured the second installment of the teacher pay raise plan “20 by 2020.”
But this is far from the funding needed to reverse the current teacher crisis.
We had a billion dollar surplus. Imagine if we took this higher than expected revenue to speed up the promised future increases. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the path our legislators chose.
Instead, the budget includes $240 million in tax cuts, as well as a large contribution to the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
More than half of Arizona voters said they are not likely to re-elect their local State Senator or Representative if they voted to cut taxes instead of increasing education funding. Which makes sense, considering 88% of Arizonans believe there is a need for additional funding for our public schools.
Our legislators knew this, yet they still decided to cut taxes instead of providing our schools with desperately needed funding. This type of politics is why our schools remain underfunded. School funding continues to be a political football, but it shouldn’t be.
New Census Bureau figures show that per-pupil spending in Arizona’s public schools was fourth-lowest in the nation in 2017. Our public schools deserve a source of long-term, predictable, accountable, and sustainable funding that will raise student achievement. One-time fixes and gimmicks aren’t working. We need to do what’s right.